Happy Easter and hot cross buns: The ultimate comfort snack boost to banish coronavirus blues?

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

Happy Easter from BakeryandSnacks. Pic: GettyImages/istetiana
Happy Easter from BakeryandSnacks. Pic: GettyImages/istetiana

Related tags: Mintel, NABIM, Flour Advisory Bureau, Real bread campaign, flour shortage, Mintel Global New Products Data, hot cross buns, home baking

Most people won’t be spending this Easter with important family and friends – thanks to the coronavirus crisis – but that’s not going to stop them from being more tempted than usual to bake up an aromatic batch of steaming hot cross buns, says Mintel.

A large majority of the younger generation of Brits say they are really embracing the quality time they are now spending with friends and family as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. According to research by Mintel conducted between March 26 and April 1, 2020, almost half (45%) of 16-24-year-olds have enjoyed the additional quality time. The older generation is also taking advantage of connecting more, with 36% of Brits aged 65+ claiming to spend more time chatting on video calls.

The crisis has also brought more people together in the kitchen. Mintel’s research found that 44% of Brits have done more cooking since the start of the crisis, with those aged 25-34 (52%) most likely to have taken to their kitchens.

Paul Davies, Mintel Leisure Category director, said, “More people working at home because of the lockdown means more time for home cooking, and there’s an inevitable tendency for people to try to eat as well as possible during a time of elevated fears over health and wellbeing.”

Baking boom in the time of COVID-19

The crisis has seen a significant increase in the number of home bakers wanting to keep quarantine boredom at bay, pushing the country into a flour shortage.

The urge to keep on baking is expected to be as strong as ever over the next few days, and the focus will quite possibly shift from bread to hot cross buns – touted to be consumers’ favourite Easter treat in self-isolation by Mintel.

These traditional yeast buns – marked with a white cross to represent the crucifixion of Jesus Christ – were reportedly developed by an Anglican monk in the 14th​ century to give to the poor on Good Friday.

Their popularity has risen – especially in countries like the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa and some parts of the Americas – and today, many retail outlets begin stocking them as early as December.

Typically made with sweet spices and dried fruit – and maybe the occasional chocolate or fruitless variant – there has been an explosion of flavour experimentation.

For example, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Data, Marks and Spencer in the UK has recently launched its first savoury hot cross bun – a chilli and cheese variant made with jalapeno and chipotle chillies for those who prefer a fiery kick, while Australian retailer Woolworths teamed up with confectionery brand Darrell Lea to develop a mocha hot cross bun.

Snacks in other categories are also jumping on the hot cross bun bandwagon, with many coming up with limited-time offers to coincide with Easter, such as Coles Hot Cross Bun Popcorn, Müller Light Hot Cross Bun Flavour Yogurt and Sainsbury’s Hot Cross Bun Tea bag infusion.

“Hot cross buns were once a simple, traditionally flavoured fruit and spice bun consumed for a short period over Easter,”​ said Megan Stanton, senior analyst for Mintel Food & Drink, Australia.

“Opportunities now exist to cater to consumers’ need for products that are sustainable, exciting and personal by extending sales beyond the Easter season with new flavours including savoury varieties and a twist on traditional decorations.”

Where UK microbakers and home bakers can find flour

To help UK microbakers and home bakers get beyond the frustration of staring at empty shelves, The Real Bread Campaign has posted comments from millers, along with tips of where to find the essential bakery ingredient on its website.

According to NABIM and the Flour Advisory Bureau, UK millers are experiencing unprecedented demand from bakeries and other regular customers and are working flat out to fulfil orders, but the bottleneck seems to be in the delivery.

‘Everyone is ordering everything for delivery at the moment, and there just aren't enough vans/couriers/delivery slots to meet demand,’ says the site.

‘In the meantime, Real Bread Campaign ambassador Danielle Ellis pulled together this list of some UK mills, which we are updating as mills provide new information.’

The campaign is urging consumers to buy from smaller, independent food producers and shops to keep the sector alive during the crisis.

“Small, independent Real Bread businesses knead YOU! Make sure to order a local loaf, or include one in your weekly shop,” ​said Real Bread Campaign coordinator Chris Young.

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